Creative Research Medal 2020
Natarajan Kannan, associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Institute of Bioinformatics, employs a multi-disciplinary approach to understand fundamental functions of biomedically important protein families. His pioneering research addresses the evolutionary systems biology of protein kinases, which are enzymes that turn signals on and off in cells—a critical part of cell communication. Protein kinases are involved in a range of diseases from malaria to cancer. Kannan develops computational and experimental approaches to understand how natural sequence variation contributes to functional variation in protein kinases and how non-natural variation contributes to disease. With his interdisciplinary approach combining biochemistry and bioinformatics, he is advancing understanding of the mechanisms of protein kinase regulation and specificity, which are poised to advance ongoing drug development studies in this class of anti-cancer and infectious disease targets.